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Government clears way for referendum to reduce presidential candidate age to 21


Michael D Higgins and Chinese president Xi Jinping

Michael D Higgins and Chinese president Xi Jinping

Michael D Higgins and Chinese president Xi Jinping

The Government has cleared the way for a referendum to reduce the age of presidential candidates from 35 to 21.

In a move approved by the Constitutional Convention last year, Environment Minister Alan Kelly brought a memo to Cabinet this morning for approval.

The radical move comes as the Government looks set to hold at least four referendums next year.

Government sources have confirmed that the move to reduce the age is part of a drive to make the Presidency more relevant to younger people.

But the idea of lowering the age was one of the most divisive issues debated at the convention last year.

The proposal to lower the eligible age for presidential candidates was passed by only three votes.

Half of delegates (50) were in favour of the move, 47 were against and three did not know. The same convention rejected a move to reduce its term from seven years to five.

The proposal for a one-term presidency of seven years split delegates with 44 voting in favour of this and 44 voting against while 12 did not know.

A one-term presidency of five years was rejected by 78 people, accepted by 14 people and eight did not know.

Meanwhile, the Cabinet is also discussing a likely date for the referendum on recognition of marriage between partners of the same gender. It has been suggested that it could be run in tandem with the Dail by election to fill the seat vacated by former Environment Minister Phil Hogan, who is now Ireland’s EU Commissioner.

Ministers are also expected to sign off on more detailed draft legislation which will recognise change of gender.

The move follows on the case of Lydia Foy, who fought a marathon legal battle in the Irish courts and the European Court of Human Rights to gain official recognition from male to female gender.

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Both Government parties and most opposition TDs and Senators back this fundamental change and will be heartened by opinion polls suggesting that seven out of 10 Irish people back the measure. But seasoned party campaigners know that opinion polls on referendums are not always reliable.

The Cabinet was advised that the referendums on same sex marriage and the presidential age could be held in early May.

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